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IRB Barcelona becomes a reference centre in single-Cell transcriptomics through the acquisition of new equipment




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  • IRB Barcelona purchases Chromium Controller from the company 10x Genomics

  • The laboratory led by Dr. Lluís Ribas, winner of the Core Lab Programme, organised by Bonsai Lab, will use this equipment to develop a new model to study inflammation. 

The human genome was first sequenced in 2000. Currently, we can sequence different types of organisms, observe their tissues in high definition and even determine the cellular diversity that makes up each one. 
All this is thanks to the technology we know as single-cell transcriptomics. 

“Over the years, a large number of biological markers have been defined that allow the identification of different types of cells and their stages. These markers have the potential to define and characterise pathological processes through immunohistochemical and immunofluorescence techniques. But when we talk about pathological processes involving unknown cell types or that lead to the reprogramming of cell stages in tissues, we often do not have the most adequate markers. This is where single-cell transcriptomics comes in. This technique allows researchers to study individual cells in a complex tissue sample, compare their similarities or differences, and use these comparisons to define gene expression markers,” explains Dr. Freddy Miguel de Oliveira Monteiro, manager of the Functional Genomics Core Facility at IRB Barcelona. 

IRB Barcelona has recently purchased Chromium Controller through Bonsai Lab, the representative of 10x Genomics in Spain. Using microfluidics, this high-precision equipment can interrogate the gene expression of thousands of cells simultaneously and in an individual manner. “This equipment stands out from others because the technique used allows a reduction in the margin of error and an increase in the number of cells processed. Indeed, it can analyse up to 8 samples comprising a total of 80,000 cells in only 18 minutes,” says Dr. Monteiro. 

After purchasing the equipment, the Core Lab Programme was launched to promote its use at the Institute. Those groups interested were invited to propose projects and apply for the different prizes related to the use of this technology. The first prize, namely four reactions, which cost approximately €9,000, was awarded to Dr. Lluís Ribas, head of the Gene Translation laboratory at IRB Barcelona. These reactions will allow the analysis of around 40,000 cells.

Dr. Ribas’ project will address the dynamics of the gene translation machinery during human inflammation, using the appendix as a model of the inflammatory process. Thanks to his collaboration with the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona, this group has been able to confirm the possibility of observing an inflammation gradient, including its initial stages, in this organ. This strategy allows the study of the regulatory mechanisms of the inflammatory cascade in a sample taken from an individual, and therefore with the same genetic profile. 

Thanks to the data provided by this technology, new hypotheses can be tested and developed in a range of research fields. There are an increasing number of methods that facilitate the discovery of new biomarkers, the definition of their cellular subpopulations, and the study of cell evolution over time. 

With the incorporation of this new equipment, IRB Barcelona has become a pioneer in the use of this transformative technology. The Chromium Controller from 10x Genomics provides a broad scalable solution for cell characterisation and gene expression profiling of hundreds to tens of thousands of cells and will bring great advances in the different research lines pursued at the Institute. 


About IRB Barcelona

The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) pursues a society free of disease. To this end, it conducts multidisciplinary research of excellence to cure cancer and other diseases linked to ageing. It establishes technology transfer agreements with the pharmaceutical industry and major hospitals to bring research results closer to society, and organises a range of science outreach activities to engage the public in an open dialogue. IRB Barcelona is an international centre that hosts 400 researchers and more than 30 nationalities. Recognised as a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence since 2011, IRB Barcelona is a CERCA centre and member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST).